Wednesday, October 30, 2013

You Never Know Until You Try

People sometimes call me crazy, but I don't mind. I guess I just really love dancing to the beat of my own drum. If I get an idea to do something and it seems impossible, I go for it anyway. After all, if you don't even try, then you've already lost. 

So, when my family and I enjoyed a particularly sweet and delicious pineapple a couple of years ago, I thought how wonderful it would be if I could grow more like it. Now, I should tell you that we were at corporate headquarters in Oregon at the time, in a region that experiences snow and freezing temperatures for several months of the year.  But, I didn't let that stop me. 

I twisted the top of the pineapple off, pulled off the leaves, leaving a 3/4 inch of the stem bare, then planted it in a big pot using organic bagged soil. I wanted to give it the best chance of success that I could, so I put my little plant in a northwest corner window, knowing that it would get regular sun in the afternoon all year long. I watered it once a week, just like all of my other houseplants, and gave it no fertilizer at all.

Well, wouldn't you know it? My patience finally paid off. Two and a half years later, my efforts were rewarded with a little 5 inch pineapple springing right up from that original pineapple top. Now, I don't know if it will grow to be big and delicious like a Hawaiian pineapple, but just the excitement of my very own pineapple growing in a pot in Oregon is reward enough!

You can try it for yourself. If nothing else, you'll have an exotic plant to enjoy, and who knows, you might get gifted with a baby pineapple just like I did.

Like I always say, you never know until you try.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Nut Above

'Tis the season again! Time to wrap ourselves in cozy sweaters, run through noisy leaves lining the sidewalks and enjoy cold weather foods. And, whether  or not you roast them, chestnuts should be one of those foods. I love to eat them raw because they're crunchy and just a little "juicy".  Every fall, when they show up at my local stores and farmers markets, I make sure to buy them every time I'm out. My family and I love these little gems. If I didn't know just how exceptionally healthful they are, I'd feel a bit guilty about indulging in their deliciousness. 

But, because Google is my friend, I know a thing or two, about a thing or two. For example:

  • Compared to other nuts and seeds, chestnuts are relatively low in calories and fat, so you don't have to be quite as careful about limiting portion size. 
  • Chestnuts are a good source of dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and phyto-nutrients.
  • Surprisingly, chestnuts are exceptionally rich in Vitamin C, folates (which are usually found in leafy green vegetables), iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and potassium.
  • If you're needing mono-unsaturated fats like oleic and palmitoleic acids in your life (and, really, who isn't) then you should be eating chestnuts!
  • Want a good source of the B-complex vitamins? Chestnuts.
  • Manganese! Chestnuts have got it. In fact, a 3 ounce serving of chestnuts will give you 50 percent of your recommended daily intake. Why is manganese important? Well, it's an antioxidant that reduces the risk of cancer and heart disease, while also helping with connective tissue health and blood clotting. Studies are beginning to indicate that manganese plays a key role in slowing down the aging process.
  • Chestnuts are naturally gluten-free.
  • The trace mineral copper is necessary for bone strength, red blood cell formation, nerve function and a strong immune system, and a 3 ounce serving of chestnuts gives you 22 percent of the recommended daily value.
So, how's that for an unassuming-looking little brown nut? Pretty impressive, if you ask me. Go get some chestnuts, crack them open and enjoy crunching on them, knowing that you are definitely doing your body good!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where Have You Bean All My Life?

If you're like me, when you think of greens, beans aren't the first things that pop into your mind. But I'm about to change that!

While all other beans are allowed to mature before being dried, green beans, also called string beans, are picked while still young and tender, when the inner beans have just begun to form. That's what makes them edible raw or slightly cooked, pods and all.  Green beans have recently been shown to have very strong anti-oxidant capacity. We can see the presence of highly concentrated chlorophyll in the beautiful, bright green color of string beans, but what we can't see is the other good stuff  - lutein, beta-carotene, vilaxanthin and neoxanthin. These are nutrients we normally associate with red and orange produce like carrots and tomatoes. Like I always say, don't judge a book by its cover.

Sadly, we are used to seeing this gorgeously green plant overcooked to a dull khaki color, with a limp and unappetizing mouth feel. If used at all, green beans are a way to fill space on a plate, and rarely take the spotlight as the stars that they really are! Here's a recipe that I make at least once a week, by popular request. It can be eaten warm, but I think it's best served chilled. I make a big batch and put it in the refrigerator for a quick snack or a scrumptious side dish. It sure beats the heck out of potato chips, both for flavor and nutrition. 

Out of This World Green Beans
(with raw option)

1/2 lb fresh green beans, washed
3 cloves fresh garlic
3 Tablespoons raw sesame seeds
chili paste to taste
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
Sea salt to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the green beans and blanche until bright green. This should take no more than 3-5 minutes. We want to bring out the color and the crunch in the beans, so be careful not to overcook. Drain and set aside.

If you choose to make a raw recipe, skip the above step and, instead, carefully wash the green beans. Set aside.

Grind the sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle. You can find these anywhere, ranging in price from under $10 to over $100. No need to get fancy, just get one that you like and that fits your budget. You don't need to crush all the seeds, just a lot of them. So it will resemble a coarse powder with some seeds still intact. Empty this into a big bowl. Add garlic to the mortar and top with some sea salt. The salt helps break down the consistency of the garlic, as well as adding flavor to the dish. Grind the garlic with the pestle until it becomes a paste. Add the garlic to the sesame in the bowl. Top it off with your choice of chili paste and the sesame oil and mix well. Transfer the drained green beans to the bowl and carefully work it around with a large wooden spoon to coat the beans with the sesame mixture.

And you're done! The next time you're craving a savory snack, this delicious and nutritious snack will be as close as your refrigerator.

For more variety, try this recipe with asparagus or broccoli!